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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Like famous father, daughter enters art world

• Among the jewels of her collection at Tiffany's

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Paloma Picasso, youngest daughter of famed artist Pablo Picasso, has designed jewelry for Tiffany & Co. since 1979.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Paloma Picasso is a woman of contradictions.

The photos of her project a stark, almost severe persona with a shock of black hair, the palest skin and red, red lips. The woman who walked into Tiffany's elegant new Waikiki flagship store, however, exuded warmth, gentleness, femininity and even a little shyness.

Shock: Gone was the signature deep red lipstick, replaced by a soft neutral.

Perhaps her famous father, artist Pablo Picasso, had it right all along when he painted his youngest daughter as "Paloma in Blue," in 1952. The quirkiness of the portrait, with one eye staring straight ahead at the world while the other tilts toward the skies, seems prophetic. Paloma Picasso is a woman with a practical aesthetic who lives her life as art.

Unlike some children of famous parents who live in the shadows, Paloma Picasso has stepped into the sun, establishing herself as a respected designer.

Her original iconic image, she said, "was wonderful as a game, but I'm much more informal in real life. I thought I could be theatrical and put on a show. It was one way to express myself. Now that I create objects and jewelry that people can wear, I have less time to spend on creating myself."

Classic, bold designs

Since 1979, Picasso has designed jewelry for Tiffany & Co.

Her designs echo her personal dichotomy. Many are quiet and understated, others boldly theatrical. Some are the classic pieces you wear every day, everywhere, from driving the keiki to school through dinner at the Mariposa. Others scream: "Where is Richard Burton? He must buy this for Elizabeth Taylor."

All of her pieces have a classic foundation, much like the clothing of her favorite couturier, Yves Saint Laurent and ancient Greek architecture. They are powerful and thoroughly modern.

One collection, called "Magic," is gold on one side, but can be flipped over to reveal silver on the other. She created this because some clothing and accessories have silver buttons or hardware, while others have gold. "Magic" can be worn with either.

In addition to jewelry, Picasso has designed a line of men's accessories for Tiffany based on a wish list from her husband of three years, Eric Thevenet, an osteopathic physician who is now her business manager. (Interestingly, her mother, artist Francoise Gilot, also married a physician, Jonas Salk, who invented the vaccine for polio.)

The Picasso men's line is made of sterling silver. The pens come in two sizes, a longer one for deeper pockets and shorter one for more shallow inside jacket pockets. Cuff links can go from silver to gold with the flick of a wrist.

Money clips are inspired by Corinthian columns and have a rubber-like band that holds any number of credit cards or bills. She is also working on three large balls that work like worry beads in a large man's hand.

Her Tiffany baby line is characteristically practical. The bowl, cup and utensils all fit into a neat little package.

Picasso's signature design, the graceful "x," was inspired by a letter she saw while at boarding school in England. "My friend signed her name with three little x's and I thought that was so cute. When she told me it meant 'kisses' I adopted it because to me it means modern yet romantic. I later realized that 'x' is how people who can't write sign their names, so I feel it is the signature of all time."

She is also designing sunglasses, wallpaper and fabrics for Motif and china and crystal for Villeroy & Bosch. Her signature fragrance, Paloma Picasso, is still popular.

She has always thought that accessories are more important than clothes because they personalize the look.

The daughter of artists

"Paloma in Blue," 1952, Pablo Picasso
It's never easy being the child of a famous parent, especially one as renowned as Pablo Picasso, considered by many to be the most influential artist of the 20th century.

The easy thing might have been to flee from art, choosing a vocation completely opposite.

"When growing up, I thought I could escape art but I couldn't. I tried to stay away from art in my mind but I knew it had to happen. If you have the urge to do it, then you simply must do it. So I turned to jewels," Picasso said in her quiet voice, gently tinged with a French accent.

Thevenet could not restrain himself from adding "She's very modest. Too modest. Her drawings and everything she touches has beauty. It's a gift." The two look and act as if they're still on their honeymoon.

Her memories of her father are warm and almost worshipful. "His work was the center of his life, so my memories are of him working," Picasso said. "I was a quiet child, so I stayed with him and played and drew while he painted."

She said he approached his work in a playful yet serious way and was never pompous or arrogant. "I was fortunate to grow up with him because he was so generous and accessible and fun," she added.

"In his art, he always wanted to find the innocence that a child has, with no preconceived ideas of what art should be.

"There was no break between his art and our life. He could focus on his work in a matter of seconds. We would be having lunch at a table in the garden and in the next second he would jump up and start working on a lithograph while we were finishing lunch."

Always playful, the elder Picasso would finish a pack of Gitanes (French cigarettes), cut it up and make toys for his daughter.

Home life

Where does a woman who could live anywhere choose to live? Picasso and Thevenet's primary residence is on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

"The beauty of having a large expanse of water before your eyes is very soothing and beautiful," she said. "But of course, in Hawai'i you know this. And of course we have the Alps so we see the eternal snows all year long. And we live in the wine country, so the grapes are beautiful."

They also have an apartment in Paris and a house in London.

And what does Paloma Picasso wear? Yves Saint Laurent suits, mainly in black ("It's good to highlight jewelry"), Hermes, Prada and shoes by Manolo Blahnik. And that red lipstick she wore for many years? It was "Mon Rouge," a shade she created for L'Oreal.

What's next for Paloma Picasso? She and Thevenet love to race classic cars. They own a 1958 Lancia B24, as well as Porsches from the '60s and '70s. He's the driver, she's the co-pilot. He loves the speed, she appreciates the aesthetics and finds inspiration in the shapes and curves for her designs.

Other pursuits: learning to sail, swimming, improving her skiing, and spending time with her closest friends, among whom are Manolo Blahnik, Isabella Rossellini and Yves Saint Laurent.

• • •

Among the jewels of her collection at Tiffany's:

Monaco collection: The collection features a continuous pattern of polished links. Necklaces: The bright, assertive colors have brought Picasso international fame.

Magic necklace: The reversible design has sterling silver and 18-karat gold. Pearls: Made of tanzanite, cultured pearls and diamonds in 18-karat gold.